Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, acting in his capacity as Defense Minister, on Wednesday signed an order banning the Al-Aqsa broadcasting network. With the order, Israeli security forces will be able to arrest individuals associated with the station, or shut down facilities that it uses in Israel or in Gaza.
The Defense Ministry said that the decision was made based on recommendations by the Shin Bet, which has established a clear connection between Hamas and the station. Hamas uses Al-Aqsa to distribute its messages, and profits from advertising and subscriptions to its content, the agency said. In addition, the station is owned by Fathi Hamad, a top Hamas terrorist who in the past has served as Hamas’s Interior Minister in Gaza.
Last month, the Shin Bet revealed that Al-Aqsa was being used by Hamas to recruit Arabs who are Israeli citizens or residents, and to provide them with information on terror targets. The system has apparently been in place for years; the Shin Bet said that in recent years it has arrested dozens of terrorists who were involved in the terror ring. Besides the satellite broadcasts, Hamas used social media to connect with and instruct its terrorists.
The Shin Bet provided an example of how the system worked. Among those arrested in the plot was Kutiba Alno’aga, a 21-year-old resident of the town of Yatta south of Chevron. He was arrested last December 18, after it was determined that he had been in touch with the gang for at least a year. He communicated directly with a Hamas terrorist named Mhmad Arbid, whom Alno’aga believed to be a journalist. In November, Arbid introduced Alno’aga to another individual, who told him he was a Hamas member, and urged Alno’aga to carry out a terror attack. In order to prove that he was indeed a Hamas agent, the individual told Alno’aga to choose a passage from the Quran and to watch Al-Aqsa. The passage was read aloud, convincing Alno’aga that he was indeed talking to a Hamas agent.
Others were recruited in this manner, the Shin Bet said, and the station’s broadcasts were also used to instruct terrorists how and when to carry out attacks. In a statement, the Shin Bet said that the plot was “just the latest in the long line of attempts by Hamas in Gaza to recruit terrorists in Yehuda and Shomron and in eastern Yerushalayim that have been foiled by the Shin Bet in recent years. So far our work has led to the arrests of dozens of terrorists. The continued activities of Hamas are a threat to the public, and create ongoing threats to all people of the region. The uncovering of this plot once again shows how Hamas cynically uses residents of Yehuda and Shomron to carry out operations.”
“The use of Al-Aqsa for incitement and propaganda is ongoing and clear,” the Ministry said in a statement. “Among other things, it routinely is used to call Arabs to riot in ‘days of rage’ and to commit violent acts against Israel and Israelis,” the statement added.